Monday, March 23, 2020

SOL 23/31 & #52Stories 11/52: Grandpa Scifres - Farmer, Builder, Preacher, and Father to 16

Returning for year nine of writing daily in March with my Slice of Life writer friends! Check out Two Writing Teachers for more slices of life occurring every day in March.
I'm attempting to write 52 stories from my life during the year 2020. One story a week, in no particular order, to remember and document some of the memories of my life. 

Earlier this month, I wrote a letter to my grandmother, Martha Ada Young, who died ten years before I was born. I've been trying to write the post about my grandfather ever since then. My grandfather died  June 14, 1945, ten years before I was born. My sources for this post include Family Search, Elbert Scifres's book of family history; a newspaper article "Minister Bridges Gap Between Indians, Whites," featuring an oral interview with Minnie Scifres Crownover (my dad's sister) from The Azle News Advertiser (9/26/85); a letter from my cousin, Cleo Crownover Bristol (Aunt Minnie's daughter), written to my brother, Karl; and of course my own memories of the stories my dad shared.

The Facts
My paternal grandfather, Andrew T. Scifres was born in Hawesville, Hancock, Kentucky on January, 24, 1856. He was the oldest of seven boys two girls born to Hezekiah Scifres and Elizabeth Caroline Harrison.

My grandfather married his first wife, Sarah Anlin Smith, in December, 1879 in Sugarhill, Arkansas. They had seven children, five  of whom survived to adulthood: Henry E., Hezakiah Alexander, Mary Caroline, Perry Andrew, and Melisia Arebell. All the children except Melisia were born in Arkansas. My grandfather homesteaded in Benton County, Arkansas where he farmed, and built a split-rail fence around his land.

Sometime between Perry's birth in 1895 and Melisia's birth in 1897, Andrew T. sold his homestead and moved to Texas where his parents had moved around 1880. He came to Texas to find work where one could always plant or pick cotton. He continued farming and preaching. He settled in the area east of Dallas. His daughter Melisia was born in Texas and it's where Andrew T.'s first wife, Sarah, died on July 20, 1897. 

He married his second wife, Martha Ada Young in Kaufman, Kaufman, Texas. They had nine children, eight of whom survived to adulthood: William Lee, James David, Minnie Ada, Alfred Isaac, Cordie Mae, Ellis (my dad), Elbert, and Estelle. The first son, Lee, was born in Texas. The remaining children were born in Indian Territory or Oklahoma (after statehood in 1907). 

"In the year 1945, after his three sons (Lee, Ellis, and Elbert) returned from the war, Andrew T. died. He had simply died in his sleep while taking his afternoon nap. He lived to be 89 years old, was the father of 13 children who lived to be grown, had more than 50 grandchildren and numerous other descendants." (letter to my brother, Karl Scifres, from our cousin, Cleo Crownover Bristol, daughter of Minnie Scifres Crownover)
New Discoveries for Me (from cousin Cleo's letter to my brother, Karl)  
My grandfather had blue eyes.

"The accompanying floods that came with the hurricane that hit Galveston in 1900 left a terrible stench in the fields in Texas." Uncle Elbert mentions in his history that the family left Texas because of the 1900 Galveston hurricane.

"Because of this the family moved to the area of Ada, in Indian Territory. Sometimes on a weekend he (Andrew T.) would hitch the horses to the wagon and go preach the gospel to the Indians."

"He (Andrew T.) and his son, Henry, built schools, businesses, and a home for the family from concrete blocks." Aunt Minnie, (Cleo's mother), recalls that"...the floors sure were cold."  

"Grandpa fell and broke his hip in his later years, and had to use crutches for the rest of his life. Since he had to sit a lot, the family got a big chair for him. I remember him sitting in the chinaberry tree in the back yard . . . " 

The Stories  
"During his childhood, he (Andrew T.) was playing in the wood yard when a chip of wood hit him in the top of his head. That left quite a dent in his skull that stayed with him all his life. I remember putting my finger there." (letter to my brother, Karl Scifres from our cousin, Cleo Crownover Bristol, daughter of Minnie Scifres Crownover) 

My grandfather saw Abraham Lincoln when he was a young boy. When I told this story in school, it was inevitable that a teacher would say that it was my great grandfather, not my grandfather. My dad even wrote a note to a teacher once explaining that yes, his father had seen Abraham Lincoln! From cousin Cleo's letter: "When he (referring to my grandfather Andrew T. Scifres) was a small child Abraham Lincoln came to their town, campaigning for the presidency of the United States. His father put him on his shoulder so that he could see."  According to my father, Ellis Scifres, this happened in Indiana.

His Calling to the Ministry
While living in Arkansas with his first wife, Sarah, Andrew T. "attended a Baptist revival meeting, became a Christian, and also felt the call the to the ministry. At that time he could neither read nor write, so he went to night school. His wife also helped him preparing sermons." (letter to my brother, Karl Scifres from our cousin, Cleo Crownover Bristol, daughter of Minnie Scifres Crownover) 

"Andrew read the Bible to his children and conducted family prayers at night. He would hold meetings in brush arbors in the summertime in various communities all over south central Oklahoma. Outdoors in a brush arbor was cooler than in a building. Andrew rode far and wide on horseback or in a buggy to preach. After a brush arbor meeting quite often a new Baptist church would be organized for among the converts. 'There is no telling how many churches he organized,' Minnie said about her father's activities in central Oklahoma. Minnie remembers her father preaching to Indians through an interpreter." (
a newspaper article "Minister Bridges Gap Between Indians, Whites," featuring an oral interview with Minnie Scifres Crownover (my dad's sister) from The Azle News Advertiser (9/26/85)   

 The Pictures


  1. I am the keeper of the family pictures in our family. And have started to write a few stories and memories that I have. I don't know if anyone will read them, but still think its important to record the stories.

  2. I love all of your stories! You have so many interesting people in your family! Thirteen children! And then feels called to become a minister even though he doesn't know how to read or write? You said you are writing 52 stories this year, are they in a special place?My family has not done a good job of collecting stories. My mom is really bored and lonely right now, maybe I will share the link to one of these posts, and challenge her to start writing our stories down.